So Many Apples…

Apple ButterSometimes it takes the right recipe to change your mind about a food. I could never understand why people got so hype over apple butter. It always tasted so one dimensional to me. Then, The Bestie gave me some of her mom’s apple butter. I had that eye popping moment of… “Whoa! It really does exist!” (from the M&M commercials with Santa) — There really is “good” apple butter! Her mom slow baked it with a lot of cloves so it was thick and had a ton of flavor. So, oddly enough my first thought was… This would be amazing in my yogurt! The yogurt took an extra tablespoon of honey per jar because she makes it with sweet apples and doesn’t add sugar, and it was amazing.  It would probably be amazing in ice cream too.

When it was done, I figured, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to make apple butter myself. I still had three half bushels of apples from my trip up to Weaver’s Orchard (my new favorite spot to get apples and other fruit) with The Bestie. So, I certainly had enough that if I messed it up I would still have enough to try again. Since I usually get tart apples, I knew I would need to add sugar. I laid out every cookbook I had that had an apple butter recipe in it and started trying to figure out how to get started. I couldn’t believe how many of the recipes called for just a teaspoon of cinnamon for the whole batch. I love spices so that wasn’t going to work for me. So, I opened up the spice drawer and pulled out everything that sounded interesting.

Apple Butter Yogurt

Apple Butter Yogurt

It took forever to bake, which was fine since I didn’t have to do anything but check it occasionally to make sure it reached the thick consistency I was looking for. When I was done I ended up with 5-1/2 quarts so I had to can it since the freezer had absolutely no space left. I used a huge bag of apples so you can adjust the recipe proportions down as needed. The apple butter ended up being perfect on my buttered bread with my Curried Cauliflower & Potato Soup. The tartness was fantastic with the earthy spices in the soup.

 

Apple Butter

16 pounds tart baking apples (I used courtland apples), cored and quartered (leave the skins on the apples)
16 cups apple juice/cider

Zest & Juice of 3 small lemons
2 cup sugar
2 cups maple syrup
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cloves
1 Tbsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 t cardamom
1 cup port
2 star anise pods

In a large stock pot over medium-low heat, cover and simmer apples in apple juice/cider for 2 hours (from the time it starts to bubble). After 2 hours apples should be soft enough to process through a food mill to puree and remove the skins.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Put the pureed apples in a non-reactive large roasting pan (glass or stainless steel). Add lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, port and star anise pods. Stir to combine. Leave to bake for 10 hours or until it reaches the desired consistency.  Remove the star anise pods before storing or serving.

Serve on warm biscuits.

 

Refrigerate the apple butter if using in the next few weeks.  Use a water-bath canner to can any apple butter you can’t use (or give away).

 

Breakfast of Champions (…who like spices)

I have not been able to prove it yet, but I am sure there is a little man pushing fast-forward on all the clocks around me. Sometimes I just don’t know where the time goes. So, lately most of the cooking I’ve been doing is the multi-tasking variety. The food kind of cooks itself while I do everything else and when I come back, I push a button (of sorts) and it’s all done. That’s how I got to this morning’s breakfast. Thanks to The Bestie, I fell in love with horchata recently. She has been a huge fan for years, but for some (completely ridiculous reason) I refused to try it. Then I made it and after one sip, I was done for. Completely, utterly in love! Which led me to another thought… I could “horchata” any grain not just rice.

This was the winter that wasn’t which I suspect is going to be good and bad. Plants are going to get a head start and look awesome, but allergies are going to be monster, so I’ve been putting local honey in something for everyone in the house on almost a daily basis. Even though I’m excited for all the seasonal spring foods my usual winter craving of oatmeal has suffered. There is something about winter that makes me crave oatmeal, but I just can’t eat it when it’s warm outside. Maybe it’s a mental block, but I just can’t. I used to do a lot of baking so the oatmeal could go into oatmeal-raisin cookies during the summer. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you spin the coin), The Kid doesn’t like sweets so I haven’t baked in what feels like forever.

 

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Then last night, I figured I’d try something out…. Cinnamon-Cherry Oatmeal Horchata…. sounds reasonable… I can make a cookie without making a cookie… So, I filled the blender with

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups water
1 tablespoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup tart dried cherries

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and let it sit overnight. Then this morning, I just pureed, poured over ice and ran out the house. I took a sip in the driveway just as I was about to hit reverse and… Hold the Phone! This is GOOD. I actually paused to take another sip. The plan was to drink it at my desk, but before I got to work it was all gone.  I blame the traffic lights. Alas, I will endeavor to try again tomorrow. Oh the possibilities… I think I’m adding about an ounce of raw cashews tomorrow.

I also grabbed a Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice on the way out too. I have developed a bit of a yogurt obsession and I think I’m going to have to make a page dedicated to my yogurt experiments. There was a Bananas-Foster Coconut Yogurt trial that was surprisingly good. So I know I’ll need to remember that one for the future. But back to the yogurt at hand. I have tons of preserves and jams that I picked up when I was making cookies, but have been

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sadly ignored lately. Now that I’m making yogurt, this seems like the best opportunity to use them all up and make more room in the pantry since I want to start trying to make my own preserves with whatever fruits look good this summer. When I saw the container of ginger preserves in the cupboard, I instantly thought of a Ginger-Apple Pie. So, I figured I’d run with it. I spooned 1 heaping tablespoon ginger preserves in each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, heated up 1 quart of whole milk to 180F, and left it to cool down on the stove until it was under 100F (okay, yes, I’ll admit that I forgot about it on the back of the stove for a bit), then I mixed in 1 packet of freeze dried yogurt starter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon apple pie spice. Then left it for 11 hours until the machine beeped. I added 1 tablespoon local honey to each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, sealed them all up and refrigerated until cold.

I’ve been eating this Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice for the past few days and it is phenomenal. Ok… I should start by saying that I love ginger. LOVE!! I have no idea where I got the ginger preserves that I used, but now I’m determined to figure out how to make ginger preserves. I must make this again!